Awapuhi is a perennial, so from autumn until spring it goes dormant above ground as the leafy stems shrivel and die away, leaving the pale brown, creeping stems (rhizomes) at ground level. In the spring the plant springs up anew. The 10-12 blade-shaped leaves 15-20 cm long grow in an alternate arrangement on thin, upright stem to 1.2 m tall. Among the leafy stems the conical or club-shaped flower heads burst forth on separate and shorter stalks. These appear in the summer, after the leafy stems have been growing for awile. The flower heads are reddish-green 3-10 cm long with overlapping scales, enclosing small yellowish-white flowers that poke out a few at a time. As the flower heads mature, they gradually fill with an aromatic, slimy liquid and turn a brighter red color. The flower stalks usually remain hidden beneath the leaf stalks.